This article is one in a series at The 74 that profiles the heroes, victories, success stories, and random acts of kindness to be found at schools all across America. Read more of our recent inspiring profiles at The74million.org/series/inspiring.
Over the course of the school year, she’s on track to visit the home of every single student. And that’s on top of her regular duties as a principal.
For MacWilliams, this can mean a random Tuesday afternoon stop, a few Sunday housecalls, even some drop-ins during summer break. “When you establish a relationship with somebody at their homes,” she told the News & Observer, “it deepens trust, their respect. It deepens their motivations on wanting to do right by the community.”
The Wake County Public School System principal was inspired by her mother, who visited students’ homes as a teacher in Syracuse, N.Y., when MacWilliams was a young girl.
Her own home visits, she told People, started in 2005, when she was a teacher at Southwest Elementary in Durham. Her students had spent an entire day spiffing up the classroom and their desks — complete with welcome notes — for a parent open house that evening. But not a single parent showed up. Nobody.
After trying to console the children, who were so sad that their effort had gone unrewarded, and wiping away her own tears, MacWilliams decided that if the families couldn’t come to her, she would go to them, hoping to “make sure their parents realize how much I love their kids.”
That was when MacWilliams had a single classroom. Now she has an entire school. And her students’ families love it when she comes knocking at their doors.
“To know the principal cares enough to come to your house, it makes you feel welcomed,” Sharmiece Dobson, a parent of a sixth-grader, told the News & Observer.